The Mansfield public menace – a 79 year-old cyclist
When is a ban not a ban?
Since then, Mansfield District Council (MDC) seem to have become particularly annoyed by Cycling UK's reference to a cycling ban, claiming they are merely asking cyclists to dismount, not banning them. It is true that MDC have not yet made it an offence to be in possession of a bicycle in Mansfield town centre, just to ride one. We'll let you decide whether that amounts to a ban.
Soon after being interviewed about the Mansfield ban, I received an irate email from someone who had watched the BBC news report, asking whether I had ever travelled “up north” and telling me to mind my own business. For most of my life visiting Mansfield would have involved a journey south, but perhaps the best response is to highlight how this order effects someone from Mansfield, and why 79 year-old Janet Scott does mind about bike bans, and thinks this is her business.
Janet has been cycling for 70 years, has lived and cycled around Mansfield for 18 years, and describes her manner of cycling in the town centre as ‘sedate’. It is people like Janet who are being affected by this order and why we're keen to make a noise about it in the media.
The Government's Statutory Guidance on PSPOs states that they are designed to stop individuals or groups committing anti-social behaviour in a public space. When the legislation which created these orders was debated in Parliament in 2014 I doubt whether MPs envisaged Council’s would use their powers in this way, to protect the public from active pensioners like Janet.
Not surprisingly Janet objects to the criminalisation of her cycling because of concerns regarding the behaviour of a few other cyclists, saying “I also think it is insulting to be accused of committing anti-social behaviour: in most ways I’m a model citizen and even pick up litter dropped by other people”.
I also think it is insulting to be accused of committing anti-social behaviour: in most ways I'm a model citizen.
Nevertheless MDC appears to view the actions of a septuagenarian cyclist as anti-social, and Janet more of a criminal than a model citizen.
Mansfield 'no go' zone for disabled cyclists
With an ageing population and the associated increase in health and care costs, some might imagine that MDC would want to encourage mobility in later years and active travel. Their disregard of people like Janet perhaps echoes their failure to adequately consider the Equality Act, and the needs of anyone with a disability who uses an adapted cycle as a mobility aid.
If you have difficulty walking and use a hand cycle or adapted cycle, don’t bother going to Mansfield. The Council that claims to want to make the town centre more welcoming does not provide for or make allowances for you. MDC’s message seems to be stay at home if you can't get around without your adapted cycle.
Councillor Barton told the Mansfield Chad this week that the objections to this order were “a mountain out of a molehill”, and that “it’s only Market Place”. He was wrong on both counts. The ban covers seven streets in addition to Market Place. Mobility into her eighties and the anti-social criminal tag are not trifling issues for Janet.
Discretion to dismount
Encapsulating the absurdity of a blanket ban at all times, Janet explained that “Obviously there are times when the streets and markets are very crowded when it makes sense to dismount and walk, but to ban cycling at all times is disproportionate and unfair. In 70 years of cycling I’ve always treated pedestrians courteously and certainly never endangered anybody.”
Obviously there are times when the streets and markets are very crowded when it makes sense to dismount and walk, but to ban cycling at all times is disproportionate and unfair. In 70 years of cycling I've always treated pedestrians courteously and certainly never endangered anybody.
Writing to her local Councillor Janet conceded that “Of course some cyclists are thoughtless, but so are some users of increasingly common mobility scooters, and even pedestrians can cause problems by paying so much attention to their mobile phones they take no account of other people.”
Hopefully MDC will not make all pedestrian mobile phone use or mobility scooters illegal in the town centre if a distracted pedestrian or irresponsible scooter user knocks over a small child, and presumably they are not considering a blanket ban of the delivery lorries and other vehicles accessing the pedestrianised area as they have with cyclists?
Janet must pose a greater public protection and pedestrian safety risk.
Off to the ring road
Cycling UK’s Cyclists’ Defence Fund is still waiting to hear back from MDC following a letter threatening possible legal action if MDC is not prepared to think again about this order. If they won't, and Janet wants to cycle from one side of Mansfield to the other without pootling through the town centre, she can of course attempt to navigate the ring road around the town.
As long as she is happy negotiating the dual carriageway, which Google street view shows widening to four lanes at junctions, without any cycle lane or cycle path except on one small section, and which Cycle Streets collision map reveals has a less than enviable safety record for cyclists, Janet should be fine.
She can share the dual carriageway with the other anti-social criminals on bikes, young and old, from whom the public of Mansfield apparently need protection.